Sudan Update Vol 10 No 9 - 25 May 99

Sudan Update Vol 10 No 9 - 25 May 99

Volume 10 Number 9 ISSN 1352-0393 25 May 1999 Oil Brigade / Captured oilworkers / Food barge hit / Cdr Biel defects / Nimeiri to return / Idris a/c unfrozen / Kosovo relief / SRRA memo / Turabi meets Sadiq / Alier's shuttle / Bombs on Bahr al-Ghazal / Wisal's moral concerns


INSTALLATIONS UNDER ATTACK: Armed forces spokesman Lt-Gen M.O Yassin said in a statement broadcast on Radio Omdurman on 5 May that the SPLA had attacked oil installations in the south and east. One attack reportedly took place at Leer in Unity State, although the incident may have been as much as three weeks ago. Canada's Talisman Inc. said the $1.4-bn Greater Nile Oil Project was not a target and the attack was not near the consortium's project area. (Reuters / Radio Omdurman 5/May/99)

DISPATCH OF MUJAHIDEEN TO DEFEND OIL FIELDS: "There are plots being prepared by the US and Israel to be executed by Uganda and other hirelings for preventing exportation of petroleum as of June 30," President Bashir said at a police conference, al-Anbaa reported on 5 May. He claimed there were "military concentrations on the eastern border."

Bashir called upon "all young men" to enlist to a popular defence brigade to defend petroleum sites and the 1,600-km pipeline stretching from the oilfields to the Red Sea.

Khartoum has sent a first batch of "Protectors of Oil Brigade" mujahideen to defend the industry, army spokesman Lt-Gen Mohamed Osman Yassin said on Sudan TV on 6 May. (AFP / al-Anbaa 5/May/99, IRIN 6/May/99, AFP 17/May/99)

CHINESE OIL WORKERS "CAPTURED" IN BENTIU: Armed Sudanese have reportedly taken captive 23 oil workers employed by the Chinese National Petroleum Corp during nearly a week of fighting in Bentiu, an SPLA spokesman said on 8 May. Yasser Arman told Associated Press that residents in Bentiu "revolted against the oil companies working in the area," and took the experts captive. The SPLA was not involved in the kidnappings, Arman said, but is willing to provide residents with support. Bentiu residents, he said, are demanding the government apportion a share of oil revenues to local services and development projects. They revolted against government troops and were joined by members of the pro-government militia of Riak Machar.

In Khartoum, Akhbar al-Yom quoted Machar as acknowledging some of his troops were fighting government forces near Bentiu, 800km S of Khartoum. He denied knowledge of the oil experts. Machar was quoted by the pro-government daily Alwan as saying the clashes resulted from "a misunderstanding among field commanders." (AP 8/May/99)

OILFIELD FIGHTING STRAINING PEACE AGREEMENT? Makuac Teny Youk, a state minister in the Khartoum government and spokesman for the United Democratic Salvation Front (UDSF), told AFP on 10 May that the recent fighting over the control of oilfields in Unity state had led it to seek "to eliminate the shortcomings and assess abidance by the two parties to the provisions of the [1997 Khartoum peace] agreement".

On 11 May, Reuters reported Youk's claim of fresh clashes between government troops and the UDSF's military wing, the Southern Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF), at Mayen Dit, north of Ler in Unity state. Youk blamed the government for the violence, saying the 1997 peace pact had put oilfields in Unity under SSDF control and that an increase in government troop numbers in Leer in early May "impaired the government's sincerity towards achieving peace and eliminated the chances of success of the forthcoming peace negotiations" [with the SPLA]. But a spokesman at the Sudanese embassy in Nairobi told IRIN on 12 May that although there had been violence when "something went wrong" in Unity state, "the government does not have any difficulties with the United Front" nor with its leader, assistant president Riek Machar. IRIN was told the fighting in Unity had been "contained" and that a joint committee of government and SSDF forces had gone to the area to "work out a solution".

State governor Taban Gai said the clashes were the first violation of a ceasefire between the government and SSDF troops since April 1997. A key point of contention is control of the Unity State oilfields which Machar said should be run and protected by the SSDF. (Reuters 6,11/May/99, AFP 10/May/99, IRIN 12/May/99)

MILITIA COMMANDER DEFECTS TO S.P.L.A: Tito Biel, a high-ranking SSDF commander, last week led three other officers and an unspecified number of soldiers to join the SPLA at Yirol in the southern Al-Buhayrat (Lakes) State. The MP from neighbouring Al-Wihda (Unity) State, Tot Galwak, said Biel had previously led SSDF forces of Assistant President Riek Machar in clashes against government troops and men of Maj- Gen Paulino Mateb, an arch-rival of Machar, over the responsibility of guarding oil fields in Al-Wihda state. The press said the government troops and Mateb's men forced Biel to move south of Leer, whence he arrived at Yirol and announced that he had gone over to the SPLA of Colonel John Garang.

Galwak said Biel's defection was in implementation of "a secret part" of the Wunlet agreement, concluded some two months ago between Machar's United Democratic Salvation Front representing the Nuer tribe and the SPLA representing Garang's Dinka tribe. He claimed that this clandestine understanding provided for "gradual" defections from the SSDF to the SPLA.

Galwak urged Machar to state "a clear position" towards Biel and adding that the SSDF "still deals with Biel even after his departure from Al Wihda state, the SSDF stronghold, to an area controlled by Garang forces." Machar, asked by AFP for a comment on Galwak's charges, said he did not know what had happened "but if it is true, the responsibility will fall upon those [government troops] who have driven him (Biel) into joining the SPLA. If this report is true, a grave situation will crop up," Machar warned.

Junior Foreign Minister Ali Abdel Rahman Nimeiri predicted that a newly signed reconciliation agreement between Sudan and Eritrea will "provide a strong push for finding a peaceful solution to the south Sudan problem." (AFP 4/May/99)


MINISTER RUBBISHES ALIER'S PEACE FORMULA: The peace initiative of former Vice President Abel Alier [see SU vol.10 no.8] was dismissed by minister of state for culture and information Amin Hassan Omar in the pro-government al-Wan newspaper on Saturday. Two days ago Hassan al-Turabi described Alier's proposals as separatist. "The government cannot and will not accept confederal proposals," Omar said adding that Alier's proposals ignored the Khartoum peace agreement - "one of the articles of the constitution which cannot be changed except by a referendum." The minister said Alier and John Garang "are in the same group and Alier's proposals are Garang's." (Reuters / al-Wan 1/May/99)

SHUTTLE DIPLOMAT: Bishop Gabriel Roric, junior foreign affairs minister, told Reuters that Abel Alier would be involved in shuttle diplomacy to bring the viewpoints of the two sides together until peace talks could resume in Nairobi in the second week of May. (Reuters 5/May/99)

PREMATURE DEATH OF ALIER'S DAUGHTER: Pauline Anai Alier, the eldest child of former Vice President Abel Alier, died suddenly on 2 April of cardio-pulmonary arrest. She was 27.

CO-EXISTENCE CONFERENCE IN WEST DARFUR: A `peaceful coexistence conference of West Darfur State's tribes' is to be held on 26 May, the presidential representative for Security and Public Order in West Darfur, Gen Mohamed Ahmed Al-Dabi, announced. (SUNA 14/May/99)

OPPOSITION DENIES SECRET TALKS: An assertion by Hassan al-Turabi that the opposition is in secret talks with the government was denied by Bakri Adeil of the Umma party. He told the press that while the two sides "exchange courtesy visits and meet at social functions ... this cannot be interpreted as a dialogue for political reconciliation." He added that Turabi had sought to "mislead public opinion." While he welcomed as "positive" Turabi's statement that his government would seek talks with the opposition, he hoped it was "not some sort of political tactics and manoeuvres." Turabi said in remarks published on 6 May that Sadiq al-Mahdi would return home soon. (AFP 1/May/99, Reuters 6/May/99)

TURABI MEETS SADIQ IN GENEVA: Speaker Hassan Turabi `is holding peace talks in Geneva' with former PM Sadiq al-Mahdi, their first since he fled Sudan in 1996, says AP on 2 May. Some independent newspapers in Khartoum reported the meeting, but the government has not commented. The Umma Party said the talks were aimed at finding "a peaceful solution to the Sudanese crisis." Its statement said Al-Mahdi was attending the meeting in

line with "the principles of the NDA for a peaceful solution." Other NDA leaders are aware of the meeting, it said. Umma Party spokesman Omar Nur el-Dayem, in Eritrea, said the meeting was arranged by Kamel Al-Tayeb Idris, a Sudanese citizen living in Geneva. Idris is considered an independent, but `is known and respected by both the government and opposition parties'. (AP, AFP, al-Khaleej (UAE) 2/May/99)

D.U.P. REBUFFS RECONCILIATION MOVE: ``We have principles, we cannot shake hands with Bashir and Turabi,'' Mohammed Hakim, a member of the executive of the opposition Democratic Unionist Party, said. Asked about recent reports of plans by the government to hold talks with the DUP leader, Mohamed Osman al-Mirghani, Hakim said the party knew nothing of any such plan and no such meeting had taken place. Four days earlier, the independent Al-Rai Al-Aam newspaper quoted Turabi as saying first vice-president Ali Osman Mohamed Taha would hold negotiations with Mirghani in Cairo. Diplomats linked the government's recent diplomatic drive to an attempt to safeguard oil exports and a desire to strengthen its hand in any future peace talks. (AFP 1/May/99)


GUNMEN ATTACK SUDAN AID BARGE: Heavy machine-gun fire hit a UN food barge convoy on the White Nile on 18 May. Mohammed Saleheen, representative of the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) told Reuters in Khartoum the three-barge convoy, returning northwards empty after delivering food along the Kosti-Juba river corridor, had come under fire in daylight near the small town of Adok, more than 400 km N of Juba. The co-pilot of the "pusher'' boat, an engineer of the Sudanese River Transport Corporation, was killed. The convoy leader, a Kenyan WFP staffer, was wounded in the leg. Another WFP staffer and a crewman were also hit. All 21 WFP staffers and crew gathered on the pusher, detaching it from the barges to escape. Efforts to evacuate the casualties by air failed, but all were in stable condition and the boat was on a 10- to 15-hour voyage to the nearest government-held territory. The wounded had been treated by a UNICEF medic using first-aid kits with advice from a doctor in Khartoum transmitted by radio. Saleheen said prolonged disruption of food and non-food aid by river barge would affect nearly half a million people. On May 19 Nicholas Siwingwa, deputy country director of the World Food Programme (WFP), told Reuters in Khartoum there was still no word on which group carried out the attack ``This is a crucial and cost-effective means of delivering food, and incidents like this jeopardise our operations.'' Clashes have erupted recently in the oil-rich Upper Nile state, where the attack occurred, between semi-independent militias led by Paulino Matip, who is said to receive government support, and Tito Byel, said to have gone over to the SPLA. (Reuter 18/May/99)

MINE WORKSHOP BOMBED: Government planes bombed the compound of Operation Save Innocent Lives (OSIL), in Yei , destroying property worth over US$10,000. According to UNICEF, six bombs fell, injuring one of 25 trainees who were attending a mine awareness workshop. OSIL, a Sudanese NGO mandated by the SPLM in 1996, operates a landmine action programme. The International Campaign to Ban Landmines estimates two million mines have been laid in Sudan. (AFP 6/May/99)

GOVERNMENT BOMBS FOOD DISTRIBUTION SITE: The Bahr el Ghazal villages of Akak and Nyamlell were bombed in mid-May; 24 bombs were dropped in Akak and another six a few kilometres from Nyamlell. In the former incident a 10-year-old girl died and a boy was injured. "It is not yet known how many more were injured," a spokeswoman for the World Food Programme told IRIN. The incident had occurred at the "leanest" time of the year, when local communities are using up their food reserves as they await the next season. (AP 17/May/99, Dow Jones Newswires, IRIN 24/May/99)

REBELS ACCUSE KHARTOUM OF VIOLATING TRUCE: The SPLA says that on April 26 the government dispatched a military convoy from Wau with the intention of attacking Rumbek and Yirol towns, currently controlled by the SPLA. "The convoy came into contact with units of the SPLA before reaching Kuajana the following day. Heavy fighting has raged between the enemy and our forces," its statement said, adding that government forces, their "Arab" militia and fighters of renegade former SPLA commanders Kerubino Kuanyin and Paulino Matib had

also been ordered to "devastate northern Bahr el Ghazal" and clear the area of Dinkas to create new settlements for Arabs. (AFP 6/May/99)

GOVERNMENT DENIES CEASEFIRE VIOLATION: "The armed forces, being committed to all humanitarian agreements concluded by the government, have not violated the partial ceasefire in Bahr Al-Ghazal," spokesman Lt-Gen Yassin said. However, he added that his troops "will not remain arms folded if the rebel forces intercept the army administrative patrols or the relief convoys or carry out any acts of aggression which will be sternly dealt with." He branded as "a false allegation" a report attributed to the World Food Programme on aerial bombardment of a location in Bahr al-Ghazal, accusing international relief agencies of "ignoring numerous violations by the rebel forces". He also charged that the SPLA has recently intercepted two army administrative patrols and launched "a major attack on Sebo area on the road to Wau and looted the property of the civilians." Commenting on an SPLA claim that it had recaptured Akobo in Upper Nile state, Yassin said "there are no government troops but there are troops of the South Sudan Defence Force" of Assistant President Riek Machar. (AFP 19/May/99)

DEADLINE REMOVED OVER N.G.O. OPERATIONS: On 22 April, international NGOs received a letter from the executive secretary of the SRRA - the humanitarian wing of the SPLM - informing them that all NGOs should sign a Memorandum of Understanding for relief operators by 30 April or leave SPLM-held areas of south Sudan. Operation Lifeline Sudan management and donors have now negotiated the removal of the deadline, allowing ongoing discussion of outstanding issues. (OLS/ IRIN May/99)

SUDANESE RELIEF PLANE LEAVES FOR KOSOVO: A Sudan Airways plane with 20 tonnes of foodstuff, medicines and blankets left Khartoum on 3 May `in support for Kosovo Moslems'. (SUNA 3/May/99)


NIMEIRI TO RETURN AFTER 14-YEAR EXILE: Egypt's President Mubarak held talks on 2 May with former Sudanese leader Jaafar Nimeiri. Officials said they met at the Ittihadiya presidential palace, but could not say what they had discussed. Photographers who took pictures of the two had their film confiscated. Diplomats said Nimeiri, 69, had toured the Gulf to test support for a new party and was likely to return to Sudan this month.

Sudan's ambassador in Cairo, Ahmed Abdel-Halim, told Reuters Nimeiri was simply paying a courtesy call. Opposition sources said Nimeiri's supporters in Sudan had collected documents to register a political party. They said Nimeiri was not linked either to the opposition National Democratic Alliance or to the government. Nimeiri's party will recruit "workers, peasants, national capitalists, intellectuals, as well as women's and youth groups," said former Nimeiri colleague Abul Qasim Hashim, who is slated to become the party's secretary general.

Nimeiri, `wearing a white turban, burned incense and sketched sailboats as he discussed his political comeback in an interview in Cairo, where he has spent his exile supplied with food, housing and medical care by the Egyptian government,' adds Reuter.

"I will say that I am very pleased with the people of Sudan, because they understood now after 14 years they were mistaken in giving support to the Umma and other parties, while they accused the good man who helped them, saying that he is a thief... Up to now I don't run after the chair of presidency. I am running after how to work for my people." He said Bashir's government was not doing well politically or economically...

"Nimeiri is part of Sudan's history and a symbol of the state, regardless of his vices and virtues," Vice President Ali Osman Taha told al-Wan. Nimeiri has the right to "national welcome worthy of a figure who had assumed the function of president of the republic and commander in chief of the armed forces," said Gen Beshir's political advisor Abdel Basit Sabdarat visited Cairo to pave the way for Nimeiri's return. "A special Sudanese plane will bring Mr Nimeiri and his family back to Sudan," Nimeiri's spokesman told AFP.

Thousands of supporters took to the streets this week waving photos of Nimeiri in full military dress and celebrating reports of his homecoming. In recent weeks, Nimeiri has both denied having presidential ambitions and has predicted he will be president within two years. His spokesman said he would serve as a roving ambassador for Sudan in the Arab world, playing a role similar to that of former US presidents.

Observers suggested the government hopes a warm welcome will give Nimeiri the incentive to cooperate. It may be easier, they suggest, to contain Nimeiri in Sudan than in Cairo.

Not all Sudanese are ready to welcome Nimeiri. A Khartoum teacher wondered if "these people forgot what he had done?" Former PM Sadiq el-Mahdi dismissed Nimeiri's return as of no "political significance." The Ansar religious sect slammed Khartoum's plan. Many Ansar followers were slain on Aba Island on the White Nile, and at Wad Nubawi in Omdurman, while resisting Nimeiri's regime during its early days. Wali Eddin, a cousin of Mahdi, accuses Nimeiri of killing 12,000 Sudanese.

Nimat Ahmed Malik, the widow of the Communist Party secretary Abdel Khalek Mahgoub, has threatened to sue Nimeiri for the hanging of her husband in 1971 with other leaders of an attempted coup. Abul Qassim Mohamed Ibrahim, a top aide under Nimeiri who is currently minister for parliamentary relations in Bashir's National Congress, warned that if his former chief was sued, his followers would "dig up all crimes committed since independence in 1956", without specifying what he meant. (Reuters 2/May/99, AFP / al-Wan 16/May/99, AFP 19/May/99)


TREASURY UNFREEZES IDRIS BANK ACCOUNTS: The US Department of Justice informed attorneys for Salah Idris, owner of the al-Shifa plant destroyed by US cruise missiles in 1998, that the Office of Foreign Assets Control - the unit within the Department of the Treasury that enforces anti-terrorism sanctions - has lifted the block on his US bank accounts, says Business Wire.

The order was issued on 4 May, the same day the Government was required to answer a civil suit filed by Idris, demanding the release of more than $24 million at the Bank of America, frozen by OFAC.

The order in effect removes any suggestion that Idris has maintained a relationship with Osama bin Ladin or any terrorist group. Idris said, ``I am grateful that the US has ... corrected, in part, the serious harm ... to my family and our good name. While I understand that the US must wage a vigorous fight against terrorism, in this case a grave error has been made. Today's action represents an important first step in ... correcting this mistake.'' Sudan asked the US to compensate everyone affected by its attack. Ali Nimir, a minister of state for foreign affairs, said the decision was "proof against the allegations" that El Shifa was producing chemical weapons.

The United States has not backed away from its assertion that the plant produced chemical weapons. US Justice Department officials said the government lifted the freeze after deciding it was unwise to reveal the sources of their information in open court.

"We made a judgment that we had concerns regarding Mr. Idris based on sensitive information, but we're not prepared to compromise those sources for the sake of this case," another White House official said. (Business Wire 4/May/99, AP 5/May/99)


SUDAN-ERITREA ACCORD: The presidents of Sudan and Eritrea signed a reconciliation accord in Doha, Qatar, on 2 May, agreeing to work "to clear the atmosphere and settle the conflict between the Republic of Sudan and Eritrea, as part of the mediation undertaken by Qatar." Qatar's emir, Sheikh Hamad ibn Khalifa al-Thani, attended the signing of the accord. The Sudanese and Eritrean foreign ministers signed a memorandum of understanding in Doha in November last year to end their differences by peaceful means, but about a month later Sudan accused Eritrea of shelling several Sudanese villages. In January this year, Sudan accused Eritrea of massing troops on the border in preparation for an attack.

Presidents Issayas Afewerki and Omar al-Bashir were reported to have met in Libya in April to try to bridge their differences with the mediation of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

Issaias said his country was "completely convinced of the need to go beyond the mistakes made in the past, and circumstances now favour a normalisation." In Sudan Abdallah Suleiman al-Awad, the external relations secretary of the ruling National Congress Party, said Khartoum expected Asmara to abandon plans to topple the Sudanese government by force, stop the opposition launching raids into eastern Sudan from Eritrean territory, and hand back the embassy building in Asmara which is currently in opposition hands.

"Issaias should display goodwill and sincerity for normalisation of his ties with Sudan so as not to allow his acceptance of the Qatar-Libyan initiative to be interpreted as a break or a temporary truce," he said. Commenting on the reconciliation - and specifically on the agreement to stop supporting each other's rebel movements - SPLM spokesman Samson Kwaje said the SPLM "respected the decisions of the leadership and people of Eritrea". (Reuters, DPA,, AFP 2,3/May/99, IRIN 4/May/99)


After talks with Egypt's Foreign Minister Amr Musa, Mohamad Osman al-Mirghani, leader of Sudan's Democratic Unionist Party and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) of opposition groups, said in Cairo, ``If the main issue in Sudan is not settled, the problem between Sudan and Eritrea will not be solved... There will be no solution at the expense of the NDA or the cause of the Sudanese people.'' Al-Mirghani is heading to Tripoli to hold talks with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, Arabic News reported on 18 May. (Reuters 5/May/99, Arabic News 18/May/99)

ATTACKING FROM INSIDE ERITREA: Three days after a peace agreement with Eritrea, Sudan TV interrupted normal programming to show armed forces spokesman Gen Mohammed Osman Yassin reading a statement that said "the forces of rebellion and mercenaries" launched attacks in the Rasay region northeast of Kassala, using Eritrean territory to launch the cross-border attacks.

The National Democratic Alliance said its forces captured the army garrison in Rasay, killing six soldiers. The NDA said it had destroyed a military convoy in Kassala state, causing "massive" casualties, adding that they had also seized a truck and a rocket launcher mounted on jeep.

The Sudan Alliance Forces (SAF) announced that its fighters had killed five Sudanese soldiers and wounded three in an attack on the Laffah barracks, 13km from Kassala. (AFP, AP, MENA, 5/May/99)

`ETHIO-SUDANESE' RELATIONS: On 3 May, State Minister for External Relations Ali Abdul-Rahman Al-Nimairi met the Ethiopian Charge d'Affaires to Sudan and discussed bilateral relations and ways of consolidating them `especially in the current period witnessing tension at the area of the Horn of Africa.' The leaders of Sudan and Ethiopia held talks in Djibouti to try to improve the cool relations between the two, Radio Omdurman said on 9 May. Presidents Bashir and Zinawi met on the sidelines of the inauguration of Djibouti's new president, Ismail Omar Guelleh. (May 3 (SUNA Reuters / Radio Omdurman 9/May)


TURABI'S WIFE ATTACKS DUTCH EMBASSY: While on tour with her husband Hassan al-Turabi, Wisal al-Mahdi has demanded the closure of the Dutch embassy and expulsion of its charge d'affaires. At a rally in El Obeid Wisal, Sadiq al-Mahdi's sister, claimed the "embassy practises acts contradictory to the morals of Islam and Sudan and wages a crusade against Islam in Sudan," according to Akhbar al Yom on 12 May.

Agence France Presse describes her as `a prominent feminist' and `a founding member three years ago of the Khartoum-based International Moslem Women's Organisation', but says her demand was a response to the sponsorship by the embassy of a family planning programme of which she disapproved. Embassy spokesman Thomas van Beekum said her claim was the result of "a misunderstanding or misinformation". The embassy is not involved in any family planning or reproductive health programmes, Van Beekum said, but only carries out "humanitarian activities within international relief agencies". (AFP 12/May/99)

Sudan Update is an independent non-profit information and referral service. It can accept no responsibility for the truth or accuracy of the original reports reviewed herein nor any claim for defamation or infringement of copyright arising out of their publication. All material is condensed by the editor and is intended for discussion purposes only. Single quote marks '...' enclose actual source texts; double quotes "..." indicate direct speech.

Information added for clarity by Sudan Update is signalled by square parentheses [SU].

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Editor: Ali B. Ali-Dinar

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